On June 3, I released “Choose Yourself” and I put on the very first page an offer that has never been put in a book before.
I offered to pay people back if they proved to me that they bought the book and if they can also prove that they read the book within the first three months of the release.
Claudia thought I was crazy. She was even angry for a split second.
She thought I was going to go broke doing this. That a gazillion people would buy the book and want their money back and that because I was also paying the cost of what Amazon takes out and shipping, that I would lose money on every single book sold and eventually be unable to feed my children.
And I had no idea if she was right or wrong. I was scared also. But I didn’t want to tell her that.
The idea came from a Kevin Kelly post at kk.org which suggested making an ebook reader that could tell if someone has read the whole book and then offering to refund people PLUS give them a dollar if they read the whole book. Tucker Max pointed out the Kevin Kelly post to me and suggested I try it.
I then wrote to Kevin and suggested some ways technically, other than building an entirely new kindle, how one can prove someone read the whole book. For instance, maybe I could put QR codes on the beginning of each chapter that people can scan in. More on this below.
At the end of the day, I didn’t want to make it too hard.
But I was definitely nervous. Not only because I didn’t want to lose money. But can you imagine if Claudia was on my back every day saying, “I TOLD YOU SO!” Holy Crap. That would’ve been disaster.
I’m going to tell you the results and what I learned.
A) First off: why didn’t I just give the book away for free?
People don’t value what they get for free. I’ve seen this in every business I’ve ever run.
I’ve seen this in every service I ever provided.
Now, I’ve given EXTRA things for free in many cases. But you always want a paying relationship with the customer. Or, as Porter Stansberrry has said to me, “your free audience will kill you.”
How do they kill you? They always expect good work for free. They set the bar higher and higher. And they feel comfortable dictating what free things they should get from you. I don’t know why they do this. It must be some biological thing. But it happens.
So I simply wanted to first establish a paying relationship with the customer so they would value my book. Was very simple for them to prove it: they would buy a $4.99 kindle and then send me the receipt.
B) Why did I want people to prove they read it?
I am a voracious reader. But I still haven’t read more than 50% of the books on my bookshelf.
I think people simply don’t read most of the books they buy.
But there’s no way to really know if someone read it without being stupid about it (I didn’t want to give a test, for instance. I respect the reader).
I trust my readers. I even said, “if you just send me a photo of you reading the book then I’m happy”.
And I was very happy.
The number of women who sent pictures of themselves in bikinis reading the book?
C) Ok, OK! The final number. Of 65,000 copies sold so far, about 300 have requested a refund. Since I also gave the option to donate to a charity about one-half of those opted for the charity. I’m going to match that and multiply by 20 what I give to the charity, which is an ongoing charity I like, Women for Women International.
Here’s the funny thing: I did a poll among readers and friends and asked them what percentage they thought would want their money back. The results ranged from 10% to 50%. The average was about 20%.
The final result: 1/2 of 1%.
I think there was slightly the shame factor (who would want $4.99 back?). And also, many readers wrote me and felt that I had delivered much greater value.
I’m grateful for those messages. I’m also grateful for the readers who wanted their money back. I made an offer, they took it (otherwise they might not have read it) and followed through. Good for them.
Checks going out within the next two-three weeks now that the offer has completed (as of September 3).
D) Marketing. Some people accused me that this was a marketing tactic.
Sure it was! It got covered by several media publications including MediaBistro. That was great for me!
But the best marketing is when your voice is authentic. I believe in my message and wanted the most readers. That was my goal. Not bestseller lists, not money – just readers. So the offer and marketing matched the message I was delivering.
The initial marketing wears off in one or two days. But the best marketing is word of mouth. I am still getting word of mouth. Lewis Howes wrote in Entrepreneur magazine yesterday that my book was one of the four must-read business books and entrepreneur should read. Thank you Lewis! The other three were among my favorites.
Never be afraid to market if you believe in your message.
E) Say No To Free. Even though this has a full money-back “guarantee”, I did not offer for free nor will I ever. As opposed to my prior books. In fact, I doubt I will give anything away for free again unless it’s part of a larger bundle that leads to a transaction.
Or unless it’s part of a larger strategy (for instance, my advice for people giving ideas away for free to a large number of potential people with the goal that one responds positively).
It’s not because it’s about money. It’s because I’ve seen it directly: people treat you worse when you give something for free. And they treat you better when they feel like they have given something for the value they received.
So the question is: In your relationships, in your business, in your health, what are you giving too much of without getting something in return. This is not about selfishness but about being confident in your message, and ultimately about your survival, about your happiness.